End of Days XXX

The Archpaladin

The next morning came quickly and we were back on the trail just as quickly. The landscape on this side of the mountains was much calmer. The wind and weather seemed to be almost stuck on the other side. It was a warm morning and the rising sun slowly drifted its way to its zenith. I became entranced by the rhythmic galloping of our three horses. They were completely in sync with each other.

By midday, we could see the white stone walls of the capital. It seemed that everything that was important was made from the white stone that we saw when we sailed the northern seas to find Balefore’s sons and Famine. It was a beautiful rock with light markings of gray within it’s mostly solid white color. There were hundreds of buildings made from it including the massive castle that the entire city was built around.

“Is it not beautiful?” Death asked as we overlooked the capital city. The city wrapped around the castle spinning down a cliff face with the castle on the top. The closer to the castle the nicer the buildings tended to be. As it spiraled out the building went from the white stone blocks to grey and the structures towards the outer walls made of multicolored bricks and mortar. “The Queen’s Castle is named Absolvere. It is quite old. The city grew around the base of the cliff that the castle sits on. No doubt as a symbol of the royal family’s power over the people.”

“Is everything a metaphor to you Death?” I asked.

“Well yes, I would say so. My conscious mind has been awake for millennia so the passage of time is inconsequential to me. I see the actions of all life as what they mean it to be, instead of what they say it is.” Death explained.

“I suppose that you would be able to decipher a meaning for life with all of your experience and teach us what it is.” I joked.

“The meaning of life? You all are too concerned with giving life meaning, especially your own lives. Life as a whole only has meaning if you aim to use yours to further the life of others.” Death said in a manner of fact way.

Morgul and I stared at him unblinkingly for a moment. As far as I had ever thought in my limited memory I had not heard anything better than that. Though my life always had meaning as far as I knew. Yes, it was tied to Morgul’s purpose but as it had so happened our purpose came from the same divine source. Uther, God-Dragon of Light.

“Why does life have to end then?” I asked.

“Well, I would suppose that life has to end so that new life can grow. If we are never tested our current life never grows. Limits are the motivation for things to happen. Life is at its fullest when it shows adversity, that it can not be challenged. That it will go on despite all efforts to stop it.” Death explained. “Immortality would not be a blessing for any living thing. Even the plants change their colors, seeds, and fruit throughout generations of adaptation.”

“So following those guidelines would you say that I live a life of meaning?” I asked.

“Yes, I would Cinredi.” Death acknowledged.

“Then why do I feel so lost?” I questioned.

“Even if you are on the right path, if no one has been down it before, it is not an easy path. Being left to wander and push through the unknown can make even the greatest explorer feel lost.” Morgul replied.

“I truly think that is the best way to explain that, thank you Morgul. Now, may we hurry our way to the gates. I do have official business here and while our questions and discussion have been refreshing, there is much for me to do in the city.” Death requested.

“This is where we must part ways. I will not be as well-received as the two of you once we reach the gates. Trust that I will be watching and never too far from you, should the need of my assistance arise.” Morgul vowed.

I nodded in agreement and we broke back into our gallop. Death and myself riding towards the capital and Morgul riding out into a near by wooded area. The white stone walls inched ever closer until we stood at the open gate. There was little fanfare to meet us, but as if clued into our urgency, a mounted escort that brought us through the city streets and into the main courtyard of Absolvere.

When we finally came to a stop a procession of guards with the insignia of The Queen on their breastplates marched to meet us and then stood at attention in two lines. After a short fanfare of trumpets, they turned to face each other as a woman in similar full plate armor and a cape rounded the corner and walked through the center of their ranks. She walked to the end of their ranks and stood at attention with them. She then moved to a resting position and the guards moved in unison with her without so much as a single command.

She glanced at us with a confident gaze. Her pale green eyes pricing through each of us as though she was absorbing every bit of information that our appearance. Her head was shaved bald. The flesh of her face was purposefully scarred in an intricate geometrical pattern, that was perfectly symmetrical. The coloration of the markings seemed to suggest that the scars were old and well healed. She seemed to take the cultural norms of Sovereign to an extreme that filled me with a sense of awe. Then her gaze fell upon me.

“Archpaladin Nilissa, at your service.” She addressed with a slight nod. “This must be my new squire.”

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